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Jeff Dressel, Paul Atchley; Conversation limits attention: The impact of conversation complexity. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):398. doi: 10.1167/5.8.398.
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In two experiments, we assessed the impact of different conversational content on visual attention. Both experiments used the Useful Field of View (UFOV) test to measure attention. In the first experiment, participants performed the UFOV test while responding to cardinal directional terms with their vertical-plane analogues (e.g., responding “upper left” when hearing “northwest”). In the second experiment, participants performed the UFOV test while making ending-letter contingent responses to words empirically demonstrated to have positive or negative emotional valence. Results of both experiments indicate a significant increase in the presentation time required to respond to UFOV targets while concurrently conversing relative to responding to UFOV targets without conversing. These effects suggest that some drivers conversing on a cellular phone may be greater than 16 times as likely to be in an injurious accident. These experiments also suggest directional as well as emotional conversations limit visual attention more than conversations using random-word stimuli such as those reported in Atchley and Dressel (2005), indicating conversational type, not simply conversational presence, can further limit visual attention capacity.
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